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Friday, June 25, 2010

Lotus announces new management team and a new Proton/Lotus model


Highlights: The new car will be introduced in about 18-24 months and will be sold as a 5-door Proton in Malaysia and will be sold as a 3-door Lotus in other markets around the world.

It will be based on the Proton Emas concept that was shown in Geneva earlier this year but “heavily modified for daily use.”

In a joint press conference yesterday afternoon, both Proton Holdings Berhad and Group Lotus announced future business and product plans for the respective companies.

Speaking at the conference were Dato Syed Zainal, Managing Director of Proton, Dato Mohamad Nazmi, Chairman of Proton and Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus.

The press conference was also held to introduce a new management team at Group Lotus comprising of some of the most respected names in the automobile manufacturing industry.

Proton Chairman, Dato Mohamad Nazmi, a man known for turning around companies that are in a uncomfortable position, took to the mike first and made the bold move of apologizing for not working closer with Lotus over the past 10 years.

He mentioned that while the previous relationship between the two companies was more on a “ad hoc and contractual” basis even though Proton owned Lotus , he wants things to change under his watch with both companies to mutually benefit from each other. Proton will gain more from Lotus engineering and Lotus from Proton’s ability to produce en masse.

Next on the mike was Dany Bahar, ex-Ferrari Brand Manager and now Lotus CEO who brought us his business plan for the next five years. Of course there was the talk of bigger numbers and newer models and niches, but to help achieve the goal, Dany assembled and introduced a new management team he likens to the Real Madrid dream team.

The list is too large to mention here but trust us that it’s very impressive. Names that would make you go wow though would be the likes of Donato Coco, once Director of Concept Design and Development at Ferrari SpA. His key projects at Ferrari include the 430 Scuderia, Spyder 16M, California, 599XX and the new 458 Italia. Coco takes on the role of Director of Design at Group Lotus. Also in the list is Claudio Bero, ex-Ferrari/Fiat F1 racing chief and now Director of Lotus Motorsports.

The list of key personnel and other revamps goes on but more interestingly Lotus introduced a product outline of an upcoming model that is to take on a new niche for Lotus.

Bahar wants Lotus to “go back to where it already was once,” an engineering and style icon. If you recall, Lotus cars were a sensation in the 70s, appearing in Bond flicks and other Hollywood movies. In his presentation, Dany said he is to take the brand more upmarket in terms of creature comforts, performance, image, and of course, sales figures.

Today’s Lotus is a very niche machine catering to those who want the ultimate driving machine without any compromises; it’s a car that only an enthusiast can appreciate. The Lotus of tomorrow though is set to be much more than just the ultimate driving machine. In his push to take the brand more upmarket, Bahar also stated that he has automakers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin right in the middle of his cross-hairs and aims to take these powerhouses head on in terms of drivability, exclusiveness, finesse, and numbrs.

Lotus currently sells around 2,000 cars per year but aims to take it up to over 8,000 units per year and that would mean snatching customers from other car companies. To do that Lotus will have to provide a product that can compete directly with the likes of the Ferrari 458 Italia and California, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche 911 Carrera, and the Aston Martin Vantage. Lotus will also continue to build no-nonsense cars like the Exige and Elise.

On questioning, Bahar has confirmed that a new Lotus that will be even more upmarket than the Evora will be introduced towards the end of 2012. He also ruled out the notion of Lotus working on its own engine, insisting that Toyota engine’s work just fine with some Lotus tuning. When pressed for some information on the upcoming, more powerful than ever Lotus, Dany did not rule out the possibility of using Toyota’s V10 powerplant that currently powers the Lexus LFA.

When asked if it would be detuned, Dany simply said, " ... maybe not, maybe it does not even need to be detuned, you just have to wait and see". He did not rule out the use of a V8 or a V6 either.

Also in the works for Lotus is a hybrid powerplant and transmission, an Electric Vehicle, a plug-in hybrid and more interestingly, an alcohol fueled powertrain.

Taking the mike after Dany was Dato' Syed, Managing Director of Proton Holdings Berhad. Dato' Syed spoke about the joint collaboration of the two companies and urged to “forget about the past” as the two companies work towards new goals with the new team. Dato’ Syed also confirmed that Proton will be working with Lotus on a global small car which will carry the “Proton and Lotus image.”

The new car will be introduced in about 18-24 months and will be sold as a 5-door Proton in Malaysia and will be sold as a 3-door Lotus in other markets around the world.

It will be based on the Proton Emas concept that was shown in Geneva earlier this year but “heavily modified for daily use.”

The next five years or so look set to be some of the most interesting for both the companies in recent times. With a very experienced new CEO at Lotus together with a new "dream team" management as well as a new Proton/Lotus vehicle that promises to go further than just a “ride & handling by Lotus” badge, we can only hold our breath for what is to come.

First up, the Paris Motor Show where Lotus is set to introduce a new model, speculations around the internet suggest that it could be a new Esprit, or a new Exige/Elise model, it could also be a Lotus SUV but Dany has said that will not happen, or it could just be a Evora convertible. We’ll just have to wait till early October.


That's all folks, thanks for having the time and patience to read this  blog entry.

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